Metamorphosis thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Metamorphosis

Lithograph
1917 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This is from a collection of 16 lithographs bound in one volume. The lithographs are a series of caricatures of Bengali life, depicting the artist's satirical comments on a range of subjects including the caste system, the hypocrisy of Hindu priests and the double-standards of the affluent western-educated members of society known as the Bhadralok.

Gaganendranath Tagore (1867-1938) was a satirical cartoonist and painter. Born in Calcutta, Gaganendranath grew up in a family whose exceptional creativity spearheaded Calcutta's cultural scene. Gaganendranath was nephew of poet Rabindranath Tagore and brother of Abanindranath Tagore, the pioneer and leading exponent of the Bengal School of Art.

In this cartoon, an Indian man sits in a train carriage and is getting changed into his western clothes. A train guard is about to enter the carriage. In colonial India train carriages were racially divided and train guards were usually of Anglo-Indian descent. These often discriminated against Indians. Here the train guard has caught the Indian trying to change his identity. The subtitle reads: 'Don't come into the room, I am about to become a sab'.

Object details

Categories
Object type
Titles
  • Metamorphosis (assigned by artist)
  • The Realm of the Absurd (series title)
Materials and techniques
Lithography, printed in ink on paper
Brief description
Lithograph, 'Metamorphosis' from the album 'The Realm of the Absurd', by Gaganendranath Tagore, lithograph, Kolkata, 1917
Physical description
Lithograph, printed in ink on paper, in this image, an Indian man sits in a train carriage and is getting changed into his western clothes. A train guard is about to enter the carriage. In colonial India train carriages were racially divided and train guards were usually of Anglo-Indian descent. These often discriminated against Indians. Here the train guard has caught the Indian trying to change his identity. The subtitle reads: 'Don't come into the room, I am about to become a sab'.
Dimensions
  • Height: 44cm
  • Width: 30cm
Content description
An Indian man sits in a train carriage and is getting changed into his western clothes. A train guard is about to enter the carriage.
Marks and inscriptions
  • 'G.T' (Bottom right hand corner.)
  • 'Don't come into the room, I am about to become a sab'.
Object history
R.F. 1987/36 & 1985/1321. Acquired from Mr Indar Pasricha and Dr Partha Mitter.

In this series of caricatures the artist wanted to highlight the nature of society in India at a time when the struggle for Indian Independence from British rule was just beginning. He wanted to expose the hypocrisy of the Hindu priesthood as well as the rich westernised Indians who had lost sight of the value of their own culture. This album was printed in small quantities and was sold for four rupees.

This is a collection of 16 lithographs bound in one volume. The lithographs are a series of caricatures of Bengali life, depicting the artist's satirical comments on a range of subjects including the caste system, the hypocrisy of Hindu priests and the double-standards of the affluent western-educated members of society known as the Bhadralok.
Historical context
Gaganendranath Tagore (1867-1938) was a satirical cartoonist and painter. Born in Calcutta, Gaganendranath grew up in a family whose exceptional creativity spearheaded Calcutta's cultural scene. Gaganendranath was nephew of poet Rabindranath Tagore and brother of Abanindranath Tagore, the pioneer and leading exponent of the Bengal School of Art.

The artist received no formal education but was trained under the British school watercolourist Harinarayan Bandopadhyay. In 1907, he founded the Indian Society of Oriental Art with his brother Abanindranath. Between 1906 and 1910, the artist assimilated the Japanese brush technique and Far Eastern pictorial conventions into his own work (see his illustrations for Rabindranath Tagore's autobiography Jeevansmriti published in 1912.) From 1910 until 1914, Gaganendranath developed his own approach to SUMI-E or black ink (see Chaitanya series and Pilgrim series.) Between 1915 and 1919, the artist, with the help of his brother, set up the Bichitra club in the Tagore family house. The club served as an important social, intellectual and artistic hub of cultural life in Calcutta, where many artists, including Nandalal Bose, A.K. Haldar and Suren Kar worked at their paintings.

During these years, Gaganendranath abandoned the ideological revivalism embraced by the Bengal School of Art and took up caricature to satirize the westernised middle class of urban Bengal. The artist's popularity was secured in 1917 when Modern Review published many of his shrewd cartoons. From 1917 onwards, his lithographs appeared in a series of books, including: Play of Opposites, Realm of the Absurd and Reform Screams. In these mocking pieces, the austerity of Kalighat paintings is wedded to the simplicity of Japanese prints. Between 1920 until 1925, Gaganendranath, informed about modern European art, pioneered experiments in cubism colour and in ink. His work however, was pictorially closer to the dynamism of Italian Futurism rather than the work of Picasso and Braque. From 1925 onwards, the artist developed a complex post-cubist style. Gaganendranath's work has been exhibited internationally.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This is from a collection of 16 lithographs bound in one volume. The lithographs are a series of caricatures of Bengali life, depicting the artist's satirical comments on a range of subjects including the caste system, the hypocrisy of Hindu priests and the double-standards of the affluent western-educated members of society known as the Bhadralok.

Gaganendranath Tagore (1867-1938) was a satirical cartoonist and painter. Born in Calcutta, Gaganendranath grew up in a family whose exceptional creativity spearheaded Calcutta's cultural scene. Gaganendranath was nephew of poet Rabindranath Tagore and brother of Abanindranath Tagore, the pioneer and leading exponent of the Bengal School of Art.

In this cartoon, an Indian man sits in a train carriage and is getting changed into his western clothes. A train guard is about to enter the carriage. In colonial India train carriages were racially divided and train guards were usually of Anglo-Indian descent. These often discriminated against Indians. Here the train guard has caught the Indian trying to change his identity. The subtitle reads: 'Don't come into the room, I am about to become a sab'.
Bibliographic references
  • O. C. Gangoly, The Humorous Art of Gogonendranath Tagore, Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Calcutta, 1973
  • Dr Ratan Parimoo, The Paintings of the three great Tagores: Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore and Rabindranath Tagore. Chronology and comparative Studies, 1973
  • A. Kar, "Gaganendranath Tagore, A Painter of his Time" in LKC 6, 1968, pp. 1-6
  • M.R. Anand, "Gaganendranath's Realm of the Absurd" in Roopa Lekha, XXXVIII, 1969, pp.168-181
  • Partha Mitter, "Cartoons of the Raj" in History Today, September 1997, Volume: 47, Issue: 9, pp. 16-21
  • Nirad C. Chauduri, "The Art of Gaganendranath Tagore" in Puravi: a Miscellany, ed. Andrew Robinson and Krishna Datta, Tagore Centre, London, 1991
  • Partha Mitter, Art and Nationalism in Colonial India: Occidental Orientations, Cambridge University Press, 1994
  • T. Guha Thakurta, The Making of a New 'Indian' Art: Artists, Aesthetics and Nationalism, in Bengal ca. 1850-1920, Cambridge University Press, 1992
  • Patel, Divia; Arts of Asia, vol. 45, no. 5, September - October 2015, "Engaging with Contemporary South Asia", p.80, no. 6.
Collection
Accession number
IS.5:11-1987

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest feedback

Record createdSeptember 2, 2010
Record URL
Download as: JSONIIIF Manifest